AskDefine | Define tetragrammaton

Dictionary Definition

Tetragrammaton n : four Hebrew letters usually transliterated as YHWH (Yahweh) or JHVH (Jehovah) signifying the Hebrew name for God which the Jews regarded as too holy to pronounce

User Contributed Dictionary



From τετραγράμματον ("four-letter word").


  1. The four Hebrew letters יהוה (in transliteration, YHWH or JHVH) used as the ineffable name of God in the Hebrew Bible, variously transliterated as Yahweh or Jehovah.


The four Hebrew letters יהוה used as the ineffable name of God

Extensive Definition

Tetragrammaton (from the Greek , meaning '[word of] four letters' (tetra "four" + gramma (gen. grammatos) "letter"), refers to , the name of the God of Israel, written with four letters, as written in the Hebrew Masoretic Text where it appears over 6,800 times.
The letters from right to left are:
is the quadriliteral name of God , which is referred to in Josephus, in the Church Fathers, in the Palestinian Talmud and in the magic papyri.
Biblical Hebrew often omits vowel sounds from its writings, which would be shown in English.
These four letters are usually transliterated from Hebrew as JHWH in German, French and Dutch, and YHWH in English. This was variously rendered as "Yahweh" or "Jehovah", since in Latin there was no distinct lettering to distinguish 'Y' from 'J', or 'W' from 'V', and the Hebrew does not clearly indicate the omitted vowels. In English translations, it is often rendered in all capital letters as "LORD", following Jewish tradition which reads the word as "Adonai" ("Lord") out of respect for the name of God and the commandment not to take the name of God in vain.

Occurrences and Uses

The Tetragrammaton is the ancient Jewish name for God. It occurs 5410 times in the Bible:


tetragrammaton in German: JHWH
tetragrammaton in Spanish: tetragrámaton
tetragrammaton in French: tétragramme
tetragrammaton in Russian: Тетраграмматон
tetragrammaton in Slovak: Tetragramatón
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